So you can read my books

Monday, October 5, 2015


My last post, I spoke of Damyanti's excellent post musing on how the fragmented identity of the world may well spell its doom:

But the fragmented identity of your novel's characters may doom your novel as well.

Your characters' identities must be crystal clear in your mind and 

make sense to your reader else your tale will seem flat and phony.

Each person in the world, no matter his or her actions, feels justified, the hero of their own tale.

So, too, must each character in your book.


Risk Level Has to Match 

A Character’s True Nature


To have an engaging novel, 

there must be an over-riding risk level 

to the actions of each character as they pursue their goals.


A villain isn't evil for evil's sake --

in fact, she or he may think they are quite justified in their actions.


Every character in William Shakespeare’s plays has a “fatal flaw”: 

a personality flaw that will cause the character to fail, 

that Achilles’ heel that the antagonist will exploit.  


When you are building your own characters, 

think about what sort of flaws they have.  

The flaw should make sense for the character, 

as in, it should be related to their background/beliefs.  


You can’t assign flaws arbitrarily—

the flaw should arise from the circumstances of your character’s life, 

where they are, who they know, 

how they were raised and how they’ve been treated.




Blake Snyder wrote a great book, Save the Cat.

It was about screenplays but what he says easily applies to our own novels.


A reader determines a character's nature by her or his actions.

And you sketch your character's nature deftly by the reader's first meeting with her or him.


Two of my major heroes are Wolf Howl and Samuel McCord, known as Dyami by the Lakota.

Here is how I painted their different but heroic natures and flaws in this Holiday tale:



I studied Dyami ...

 the Whites here in New Orleans called him Captain McCord ... among less cordial names. 

 I flicked my eyes to Mesmer, the fabled cat who owned this French Quarter restaurant. 

 I wondered what Dyami saw when he looked at her.

 Being the last Lakota shaman, I saw something ... someone quite different. 

 Dyami cleared his throat, "Wolf Howl, I know you don't celebrate Thanksgiving ...." 

 "Thanks-Taking," I corrected.

 "The Indians gave those Pilgrims food to keep from starving, and afterwards, 

the Whites thanked every tribe they met by taking everything from them they wanted: land, children, a future."

 Dyami sighed, 

"Long before the White Man arrived, the Delaware warred with the Iriquois; 

the Crow with the Cree, the Navajo with the Hopi ...." 

"Oh, yes," I said, 

"let us talk of the Hopi, who graciously welcomed the Spanish explorer, Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, and aided him on his way." 

Mesmer growled low in her throat, matching my mood, 

"And in gratitude, the Spanish occupiers enslaved the Hopi populace, compelling them to endure forced labor and hand over goods and crops." 

 Dyami shook his head. 

 "I wanted to bring you here to thank you for all you did for me and New Orleans, not ...." 

 I shook my own head. 

 "I did not do it for the Great White Father, but for those young girls you placed under my protection."

 {Check out END OF DAYS

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Dyami said, "I will get Bush to call off his dogs for all you did." 

 I laughed without humor. "He hunts you now." 

 "I'll think of a way."

 I nodded, "I know you will try, but ...." 

A hollow-eyed white man burst into the restaurant, waving a poorly maintained automatic. 

 "I want all your money!" 

 It hit him then that despite the smell of food from the kitchen, there was only me, Dyami, and a cat to rob. 

"Well, shit!" he eloquently said. 

 I looked to Dyami, 

"Like all white men, he thinks a gun in the hand means the world by the tail." 

"That gun's pointed right at you, Injun!" 

 I studied this white man, trying to decide just how painful to make his dying. 

Dyami was looking out past the swinging door and sighed, 

"Wolf Howl, he has a frightened wife and hungry daughter out there." 

 I muttered, "Life conspires to take away all my joy." 

I met the man's uncertain eyes. 

"I tell you what: I will buy that poorly kept gun of yours for a thousand dollars." 


 I gestured with my fingers, turning the silverware in front of me to gold-ware.

 "It is yours ... on one condition." 

 "Wh-What condition?" 

 "That you bring your family in here to share our food." 

 My words seemed to hit him like a fist, and he looked miserable.

 "I ain't never done anything like this before but Katrina's put us out on the streets. I was at my wit's end." 

I thought that it had not been a long trail but kept that to myself. 

 He softly, hesitantly placed the gun on the table, and I slid the gold utensils to him. The White Man tucked them quickly into his pockets. 

 "W-Why are you feeding my family after what I tried to do?" 

 I flicked my eyes to Dyami. "Tradition." 

 As the man rushed out to gather his wife and child, Dyami smiled sadly at me, and he said what I could not bring myself to, 

 "Happy Thanksgiving." 

For more of Wolf Howl, read THE LAST SHAMAN:


  1. I'm so glad you cited Blake's Save the Cat book. I've been using it to write my screenplay, but I'm afraid a couple lessons in it didn't sink in deeply enough so I've had to scrape (yet again) what I had and am now outlining to the nth degree a more streamlined, clean story. After that, the screenplay itself should go quickly.

    And yes, focusing on the lead character's challenge, goal and her fatal flaw are now front and center.

    1. The more you focus on the heart of your screenplay, the clearer it will become to you. I hope your lead characters' battle with her flaw turns out better than Hamlet's! :-)

  2. Lots of information, I'll have to make it back. I'm already addicted to your books.

    1. That means so much to me. Thanks for liking my books. :-) Did you know that the audio to CALL ME TOMBS is about $3. How cool is that?

  3. This is great information. Characterization is my weakness. I'm working on it. It's so true that evil does evil because they get something out of it. It satisfies a need. It pays them back in some way. I think we all look for payback, what we will gain from something we do or don't do. People are complicated. Characters should be also.


    1. Teresa, characterization was Issac Asimov's weakness, too. And look how popular his books were!

      Profit. It all comes down to profit for Man. But with heroic souls, the profits are intangible like the smile of a little sick child, learning she will soon be well.

  4. The main character flaw in my last book fit him well and really did almost cause the demise of him and everyone around him.

    1. It did do poor Hamlet in. What did the ancient Greek playwrights believe? Character is destiny. High sales for your books! :-)

  5. Good points as always, Roland. My characters come to me with flaws already in place. My job is just to tell their stories. :)

    1. Thanks, J. H. To tell their stories is the hard part! Why would a flawed character overcome their flaws and for what goal?

  6. We'd all do well to study the Bard more closely. His stories were also beyond the pale, but somehow he convinced us to go along with him and believe all those coincidences. Maybe we get stuck too much in reality. Can't wait to see the new Macbeth movie. Apparently it's amazing.

    Thanks for your kind comment on my post today Roland :-)

    1. I think it is because Shakespeare crafted his characters into such believable people that we bought the fantastic situations he put them in.

      Yes, I intend to see this latest version of Macbeth movie. And I was truthful in my words on your blog -- you are a good writer. Believe in yourself -- I do :-)

  7. Great advice! All characters are right in their own mind and it's kind of cool to get down in that and figure out the whys. I need to try and give more flaws to my main characters. For whatever reason, they all tend to have the same flaws as me (mostly because it's easier to write): anxiety, depression, the ilk.

    - Madilyn Quinn @ NovelBrews

    1. But because they struggle with the same inner foes as you do, you can make their pains and triumphs over them more realistic. Best of luck with your latest. :-) Visit here soon for my birthday present to myself -- the Kindle version of my latest book. :-)

  8. Awesome advice. I revel when a villain has full and fleshed out motives, when he/she makes as much sense if not more than the protagonists. Those are the stories I live for.

    1. I had fun making Abigail Adams as a cold-blooded ruler of American vampires an interesting challenge -- along with Empress Theodora and even Meilori Shinseen, the Dragon Lady wife of McCord, as fleshed out individuals whom you could understand taking the paths that they did.

  9. I like what you said about motivation. The thing is, villains tend to think they're the heroes, so we need to establish why they feel what they do is "heroic."

    1. Julius Caesar thought he was saving the Roman Republic while he was actually destroying it -- but he didn't see it.

  10. Great points. Characters need to be complete or they just don't seem real or relatable.

    1. The background characters must be fleshed out as well or else the whole story seems to be a puppet play, right?

  11. Yes to so much in your post and such great advice. I know I sometimes tend to focus too much on the mc and forget to connect, or round out the other characters, they have to have their own identity and motives which make the mc's story that much better and credible. Great to be back, I've missed you too!

    1. It is great to have you back. I missed you!

      In linking my series of novels together so that a secondary character become the MC, I have made a whole roster of fully fleshed out individuals to make my stories more "realistic."

      Rest after your B&B ordeal! :-)

  12. Solid advice all around! I enjoy crafting sympathetic villains and flawed heroes. Everyone possesses shades of good and bad, and fictional characters should reflect those deeper dimensions. Check your inbox for birthday music:)
    Something Wicked This Way Comes

    1. Thank you so very much for the soundtrack present. I especially enjoyed the track "Quantum"/ May your October be filled with all treats and no tricks! :-)